EPA as bargaining chip in budget negotiations
Republicans have targeted the Environmental Protection Agency for serious cuts, and environmentalists worry that this could be the end of the EPA.
This story was originally covered by PRI's Living on Earth. For more, listen to the audio above.
The White House has threatened to veto legislation that would strip the EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse gases. A measure that would have done exactly that passed overwhelmingly in the Republican-controlled House, but similar bills were recently defeated in the Senate.
"This was one of their top legislative priorities was to do this, to spank EPA," according to Darren Samuelsohn, Senior Energy and Environment reporter with Politico, "to make it clear that the Republicans don't agree and also to put some Democrats in a tough spot with some tough votes."
In some sense, Republican efforts to attack the EPA have already met with success. According to Samuelson, about 15-20 Democrats are in the Republican camp on this issue.
For the politicians who voted to save the EPA, Samuelsohn believes there will be efforts to apply more pressure. "You're going to see commercials in campaigns around the country ... trying to connect Democrats who supported the EPA with raising gas prices and raising energy prices ...".
Though this effort to kill the EPA didn't succeed, it's not the end of the battle. "It will rear its head again," according to Samuelsohn. "I guarantee it."
In fact, some environmentalists could be nervous about Obama using the EPA as a bargaining chip in bigger budget negotiations. "The Republicans are forcing the EPA into these budget negotiations and President Obama has been pretty clear that he will veto a stand-alone measure to stop EPA," Samuelsohn clarifies, "but he hasn't specifically said what he would do if the big budget got balled up with EPA in it."
Environmentalists are right to be nervous, according to Samuelsohn, especially since Obama hasn't laid out enough specifics. The environmentalists "don't have tons of political power and don't have a lot of political capital," Samuelsohn says, "they're certainly part of Obama's base, but, you know, if Obama wants to win re-elect in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, he's got to be concerned about what industry feels and what industry thinks."
Hosted by Steve Curwood, "Living on Earth" is an award-winning environmental news program that delves into the leading issues affecting the world we inhabit. More about "Living on Earth."